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Brass Man
Neal Asher
Tor paperback £6.99

review by Debbie Moon

When a prototype robot with a hidden flaw is stolen by separatist rebels, no one expects it to fall into the hands of Skellor, a would-be dictator contaminated by the nanotechnology of a dead race that gives him almost unlimited powers. The robot becomes brass killing-machine Mr Crane, Skellor's principal weapon in his quest to find the mysterious entity Dragon. The battle between these two super-beings threatens to tear the galaxy apart, and the man appointed to stop them, Skellor's old enemy Ian Cormac, agent of the galaxy-governing Polity, seems very ordinary in comparison.

But this dangerous nanotechnology is beginning to appeal to the artificial intelligences that effectively rule the Polity. Open rebellion is about to break out - and strangely enough, the fate of the galaxy will depend partly upon a vulture that is not what it seems, a knight and his reluctant apprentice setting out to slay a dragon, and the fragmented sanity of a brass man...

Neal Asher's particular brand of visceral, epic adventures are partly a throwback to the golden age of science fiction, and partly a whole new slant on the genre - sprawling stories that span entire star systems, throw in every conceivable kind of intelligent life, carbon- and silicon-based, and create extraordinary, vicious eco-systems stuffed with ingeniously designed predators. Brass Man continues his usual fast-moving, multi-plotted style - and if your memory of previous volumes is, like mine, a bit hazy, the multiple characters and detailed back stories can be a bit of a strain.

Once you've caught up, though, there's no faulting Asher's sharp writing and eye for the bizarre - and particularly for striking images, like the chess game that plays a vital part in the denouement. By creating a low-technology world where much of the principal action takes place, he throws his normal cast of resurrected and embellished supermen into sharp relief. And in Mr Crane, he has created a strangely sympathetic hero-villain, whose journey back towards sanity gives the complex story a clear sense of progression.

All in all, Brass Man is another triumph for Asher, an engrossing and often moving read that will delight his many fans. Highly recommended.
Brass Man by Neal Asher





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